6 Ways to restore creative energy

During COVID-19 physical isolation, many people are feeling pressure to organize, learn, create- generally be more productive. The reality is that many of us find ourselves with more time on our hands while others are doing much more and facing more time pressures. Some are home with young children demanding attention or rebellious adolescents looking for a distraction.

Those of us working from home might have additional demands or be juggling different schedules. Those deemed ‘essential’ have had additional stress about exposure to the virus. Others have lost work or jobs and worry about money.

Through all this, there are pressures from ourselves and others to make something of the time. Our social media feeds are flooded with people baking, learning and instrument, taking up a new hobby. We are told that Shakespeare wrote King Lear or some other great work while quarantined during the plaque. If you are tired of that pressure, you might enjoy this New Yorker Article What Shakespeare Actually Did During the Plague for a different perspective on how Shakespeare might REALLY have spent his time.

Restoring creative energy

As cities and businesses move towards reopening and returning to ‘new normal’ we are also recognizing that it will be sometime before things return to old ways of doing things. Indeed, there are things we might want to learn and take forward into a changing world.

If you are looking to revitalize your creativity, these tips might help.

Start Small

Set a timer for 15-30 minutes. Commit to creating for just that much time. Write, dance, sing, stitch, design, draw, carve – or whatever your preferred outlet. Don’t stop before your timer. If you are energized and want to keep going, that is great but there is no pressure to continue, which can be freeing. Start small – but start.

Establish routine

Create at the same time every day. You don’t have to do the same thing every time if you balk at routine – mix up what you do but determine to be consistent about when. This can be especially empowering at a time when so much is out of our control.

Find inspiration from nature

Get out in the fresh air. Visit parks, trails or beaches if it is an option for you. Step out in your yard or balcony. Sit by an open window if you have to stay at home. Appreciate the sounds and colours of the outdoors, the comfort of seeing sunsets and sunrises, the entertainment of wildlife or domestic animals. Browse nature illustrations in books or magazines. And if you absolutely can’t get outdoors, take a virtual tour through a wildlife cam like those at Explore.org LiveCams including the AfricanWatering Hole Animal Camera. Nature has restorative powers for mind, spirit AND creative inspiration.

Join a challenge

If you are struggling about where to start, take away the pressure to come up with an idea. Join a group or challenge and get daily or weekly prompts as a jumping point. Whatever your interests or ambitions, there is probably something that is just what you want. Writers might like the Isolation Journal Project by Suleika Jaouad; Visual artists can find inspiration with daily prompts at Doodlewash. Readers can find recommended books at Booklist Queen’s 2020 Reading Challenge. Whatever your interests, you can find someone other creatives, consumers, collectors with similar pursuits.

Be accountable

Get and offer support.
You can share in online groups or your social media, or with a local group of friends. Set goals and exchange ideas. Set what you what to achieve for each day or week or month or … whatever time you want to set. Then check-in, compare notes, reassess, and plan for the next time.

Create without pressure

Make something creative that doesn’t require focused creativity. Don’t worry about advancing a major project but sit down and play. Doodle. Paint colour palettes. Write simple descriptions of your environment – what do you hear, see, smell, taste. Write a poem or a song about something on your desk or outside your window. Be silly. Stitch a row of flowers.

Not feeling creative? Do something that lets you create without thought. I like to use fabric scraps to make scrappy blocks that will eventually go together in a charity quilt. No planning or big time commitment required.

What steps help you restore creative energy?

What do you create when you are not feeling creative?

The case for imperfection

Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.
Henry van Dyke

I have been accused of being a perfectionist.   It always makes me bristle.  “Ridiculous!”  I shout.  And, as proof,  I argue that my work isn’t perfect.  Turns out,  That is a classic symptom.  So is my tendency to take waaaay too long to do just about everything,  typically a result of redoing or overthinking or restarting or, worse yet,  not starting.  All in all, strong evidence of a perfectionist – or at very least, perfectionist tendencies.

It is not like I don’t know I’m doing it.  I am aware that that I am taking too long and tell myself to consider it done and move on to the next thing.  And I do to – you know, right after just one last adjustment.  It is time to get that under control.

I need to let it go so I can accomplish more in less time.   And finish more.  Take for example past efforts to keep a journal – or blog for that matter  – to track progress.  Inevitably I miss a day and then feel compelled to ‘catch up’  before moving forward, which obviously somewhat defeats the purpose.

What was my point – oh yeah, not a perfectionist.

Perhaps I could stretch the truth just a little and claim to be a ‘recovering perfectionist’ (read that somewhere at it appeals to me).  I’ve made some progress but not nearly enough.  It is time to again take up the charge and embrace imperfection.

Perfection stifles creativity AND productivity.

Aim for progress, not perfection and just get started





Aim for progress.
Aim for excellence.
Be realistic- about time, expectations, and resources.
Don’t wait for the perfect time.
Start today.  TAKE ACTION NOW!!

If you have stories to tell, don’t let perfection be an excuse for getting started. Don’t worry that you have all the details exactly right.  Do not stress over finding the perfect font, the ideal picture the best quote.

Even the biggest failure beats the hell out of not tryingGet it started.  You can always refine or revise – to a point of course.

Progress, not perfection!

Where are you on the perfectionist scale?   Are you a perfectionist and proud of it? A sometimes or situational perfectionist? A denying or recovering perfectionist? Or perhaps you are the polar opposite of a perfectionist – would that be an unperfectionist – or maybe anti-perfectionist?

Share strategies you use to make sure that perfectionism doesn’t become procrastination.

The Plymouth Tapestry: Stitching 400 years

Many people are familiar with the Bayeux Tapestry, which tells the story of the Norman Conquest and the Battle of Hastings through an embroidered cloth almost 230 M  Long.

Learn more in this short film: The Bayeux Tapestry – Seven Ages of Britain from BBC One

This spectacular piece of work inspired a group of embroiderers and historians in Plymouth, Massachusetts who were looking for a project to celebrate the 400th anniversary of their town.

The project was a huge undertaking that involved many stitchers and designers. Elizabeth Creeden designed the drawings and did sample stitches and colour selections for each of the panels.  Early in the process, it was decided that this would be a communal project.  There were workshops that allowed interested community members to learn stitches and take part in the project.  Panels were also taken to other events to provide more opportunities for volunteers to participate.

The Plymouth Tapestry was conceived as a multi-year project, which will be completed in late 2121.  It will include 20 -6 ft panels. The completed tapestry will tell the story of the pilgrims, the Wampanoag people and the general history of the area.  One of the challenges is very different records and stories of history.

We realize we are telling two different stories and two very different kinds of traditions and ways of passing on knowledge. With the English side, it’s all about written records and documentation….. It’s wonderful to have an Aquinnah Wampanoag tribal member sitting at the table with us, and she said, “You know our history isn’t the same. We don’t look at it in the same way. We have an oral history that’s gone on for thousands of years; we share stories of our people.

Quote from The Plymouth Tapestry, by Cheryl Christian in Needle Arts (Dec. 2018, pp 18-24)

This work will tell the long history of Plymouth and leaving a lasting legacy that will be remembered as is its original inspiration,
the Bayeux Tapestry.

Read more about the Plymouth Tapestry and its stories in The Plymouth Tapestry or visit the Pilgram Hall Museum website.

Magna Carta as a stitching collaboration

This morning, I received my weekly Inspirations: All Stitched Up newsletter  in my mailbox.  (Issue 222, FEB 21, 2020).  Reading this is always a welcome way to start my day with creative ideas.  If you do – or admire – hand work, you can sign-up for this beautiful newsletter at Inspirations Studios.  If you are so inclined, you can also catch up on the spectacular work in past issues.  Be warned:  that is a exercise almost guaranteed to take you off on a journey of exploration that might well steal hours from your day.  Happily, it is oh, so worth it.

An article that really connected with me this morning was the
story The Magna Carta Reimagined by Nancy Williams.

Ms. Williams described a large piece currently on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Sydney, Australia.  It is a gigantic work of the Magna Carta: An Embroidery created by British artist Cornelia Parker for the 800th Anniversary celebration of the signing of the document in 1215.  In honour of this show, the MCA has posted a conversation with Cornelia Parker and MCA Chief Curator, Rachal Kent.   Ms. Parker describes the

For my piece Magna Carta (An Embroidery) (2015), I took an image of the Wikipedia entry of the Magna Carta on its 800th birthday and had it printed onto fabric. The fabric was 15 metres long by 1.5 metres wide – and was cut into around 50 strips so that all the words were embroidered by many contributors. That’s what I like about Wikipedia; it’s made by hundreds of
people imparting their little bit of knowledge, rather than the definition being written by one authority figure. I liked the idea of multiple authors embroidering the definition of the Magna Carta, from prisoners to judiciary to
lords to MPs to well-known personalities and infamous whistle blowers, like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, who both embroidered for me.

(read more of Cornelia Parker in conversation with Rachel Kent )

This short video gives you some additional insight into the planning, motivation and process of creating a piece of this scope.

If the video doesn’t display, try this link Magna Carta (an Embroidery) on daily motion 

I find this project really exciting in its success at bringing many different people together on one creative expression.  It is especially moving in its success to allow space and encourage individual touches and variations.  It incorporates accidents, stains, errors and variety. Participating embroiderers range from beginners to established professionals and educators and the range of skill is reflected and embraced in the work.

I love that this piece also reflects changes that have taken recording and reporting from a limited few people of means and inherited privilege to a project such as this that reflects people of a wide range of experiences and backgrounds.

Have you taken part in a collaborative work? What was the result?  Did the experience impact your process or style?   Share your experiences, or your thoughts on Magna Carta: An Embroidery in the comments.

You have stories to tell

What are your stories?

  • Do you have stories that you know you want to tell but you struggle with how to tell them?
  • Are there things that you keep that no longer serve you but remind you of stories that you need to process?
  • Do you sometimes feel that you have nothing of interest to anyone else so you dismiss them as not worth exploring?

If any of these statements ring true for you, join me here to explore ways to find and keep your own stories, and find ways to share those stories – even if it is for an audience of only you.

Wednesday wonder

Not much narrative today.  Just a few images from Fisherman’s Cove, a small village on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore.



Dramatic sky…







…Lovely colours…



… and a sweet little feral cat under the dock.